We were on the move again today – moving south to Skukuza – but this is such a rich area for wildlife that we were up early and on the road before 5am. So many roads we could try today and always that excitement in anticipation of what might lay ahead for us. Pausing to drop off our keys in the box, we headed down the hill with a Black Kite overhead for company. Shortly after turning left at the T junction with the main road, we saw a car stopped ahead. We could see nothing and drew up alongside them to ask what (if anything) we were missing. They had seen a Leopard moving back into the bush but we only glimpsed a flash of its tail and hindquarters as it moved way back into the scrub. Whilst we do not have a set wish list, we were somewhat disappointed that this was the closest we had come to any Leopard sighting since we had been in the Park. We recalled our conversation with Flying Cheetah as we had left Satara almost 2 weeks ago and who had said he had found no Leopard for 2 weeks. Not just you then FC. Our spotted friends were definitely in hiding this trip! Not to worry, Giraffe and a Bataleur were about to wish us ‘Good morning’.
We stopped at the high water bridge, keeping an eye on the Baboon troop assembled at the end of the bridge
and spotted a Yellow-billed Stork and a Hippo out of the water along the river bed.
Moving onwards another Red-crested Korhaan was out and about and then we arrived at the Hyena den where we found a mother and pups.
Not so long down the road we found another den with yet another Hyena and 2 pups.
Keeping to the tar road, lots to keep us interested as we headed south – Ellies, Zebra, a Wildebeest herd with young calves,
Warthogs, Kudu and a Wildebeest kill now feeding Black-backed Jackals and several types of Vulture.
A large Tusker was keeping close to the camp fence as we pulled into Satara for a brief comfort break. Back on the road we turned down along the Orpen road as we planned to stop at Nsemani Dam for our coffee break this morning. Lots of action in the area, a large group of Marabou Storks ( 12 in total),
Bull Elephant, Hippos, Waterbuck,
Fish Eagle, Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala and Vervets. We love this location and have been so lucky here. It is one of those places where you can just sit and wait, something interesting always comes here.
Time to move on and we turned around to head back eastwards to the main north/south road and then, for sure this was an inspired choice today, turned onto the S100. Just a few kilometres down the road we spotted movement ahead and were thrilled to find 3 male Cheetahs.Two Cheetahs
, on Flickr
They were definitely out on the hunt for a meal and we were privileged to watch them work their way along a route keeping parallel to the road but about 30 metres back in the bush. Whilst we did not see them make a kill, we tracked them for quite a while as they went hunting. What a thrill they gave us as we watched them interact. Eventually they moved well away from the road and we could not see them but, creeping along, we almost missed the snake (tentatively identified as a Rhombic Egg-eater Snake) who was crossing the track.
A few kilometres on, we found 3 young male Lions – well, this is Lion Alley after all!!
Later 4 male Kudu, another trio of Waterbuck and a solitary Wildebeest. Then 2 Lionesses, a juvenile male Lion and a cub.
What a fantastic morning this was for us. It might be our last drive along the S100 this trip but for certain we would not forget what the area had delivered.
At the T junction ahead, we turned south towards N’wanetsi – not to be outdone by the S100, we found Giraffe, Baboons, a young Crocodile
and a Baby Croc,
Yellow-billed Stork, Goliath Heron and Grey Heron. As all my family will confirm, I love Crocs so these two youngsters were really special sightings for me.
At the main junction with the tar road to N’wanetsi we turned westwards and, again, so much to see today – Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, a pair of Ostrich, 3 Lionesses
and a small herd of Buffalo.
At the H1-3 we turned south, spotting a Brown Snake Eagle, 4 Black-backed Jackals (we saw more Jackals than we have ever seen before on this trip. Often we may only see one or two but we saw huge numbers this time. What a joy), then a group of Vultures on the ground – Lappet, White-headed, Cape and White-backed – but could see no kill that had brought them together. A large herd of Buffalo captured our attention and we stopped to watch the Hippo and Waterbuck at Kumana Dam.
Continuing south, we found a traffic accident ahead where a Bakkie had rolled. We understand it was to avoid an animal but I suspect he had been driving too fast to stop. A SANP vehicle was in attendance but the driver had hurt his arm and we were carrying full medical kit so we stopped to dress his injuries before he could be taken to more specialised medical facilities.
We stopped at Tshokwane for a pit stop and coffee. It had been a very eventful morning so far and we needed to calm down before continuing our journey. As always the Vervets and Baboons were making a thorough nuisance of themselves.
Time to get back in the car, a small herd of Ellies were close to the road as we headed south. At Leeupan we found Giraffe, Woolly-necked Stork,
Striped Cuckoo (another first for us)
and 2 Eagles – Juvenile Bataleur and Wahlbergs.
The road was now quiet but when we got closer to the Sabie River, the sighting increased – Wahlbergs Eagle,
Thick-billed Weaver, Hippos, White-fronted Cormorant, Pied Kingfisher,
Blacksmiths Plover and a Crocodile.
By the time we reached Skukuza, it was late enough to be able to check in. I must admit that , in the past, we have tended to avoid this camp as it is so large. However, the last few visits have been much better than imagined and, when all the day visitors, have gone, it can be a really quiet camp. We had been allocated number 102 and it was excellent. We unloaded the car, looked at our watches, and, yes, we could just get a quick trip down to Lake Panic before Gate closure.
When we had passed here on our way up north, there was no time to pop into the Hide and this would be our first visit this trip. We are always so excited to see what is about and nesting or whatever. This afternoon we found Darter, Cormorant,
Egyptian Geese and their goslings,
Lesser-masked Weavers, Grey Herons, Black Crake, Jacana,
Fish Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Greater Egret,
Hippo and Thick-billed Weaver.
This is one location you really cannot just drive past!!
We stopped at the Hyena den on the way back to camp and had views of the babies again and a juvenile.
Time passing and we needed to get back before Gate closure – we were also getting very hungry and a braai needed to be lit. For the icing on the cake, as we sat on the stoep after enjoying our dinner, we were visited by a Thick-tailed Bushbaby.
This had really been a truly amazing day.